- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

The quirky grocery chain with strange labels, handwritten signs and employees who wear Hawaiian shirts doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the District.

But West End residents are welcoming Trader Joe’s, which opened Friday at 24th and L streets Northwest.

There are plenty of convenience stores in the area, but the closest full-service grocery store is a drive south to a Safeway at 25th Street and Virginia Avenue near the Watergate complex.

“We’re excited to have Trader Joe’s in the neighborhood,” said Bill Miller, a West End resident who is collecting signatures to form a Business Improvement District in the neighborhood. He is a retail broker but was not involved in the Trader Joe’s transaction.

“People have to drive to the grocery store. There’s no place to walk to,” he said.

Trader Joe’s, a boutique grocery chain from Monrovia, Calif., has 10 locations in the Washington suburbs. The company says that it purchases unique products — whether vegetarian, kosher, organic or just plain different — from around the world, so it doesn’t carry many of the standard brands found in other grocery stores. Its employees wear Hawaiian shirts to maintain a seafaring theme.

As the District’s neighborhoods grow, demand for urban grocery stores has increased, too. Grocery chains are responding.

Giant Food Inc. opened a store earlier this year at the former Camp Simms National Guard site on Alabama Avenue Southeast and another one last year at 13th Street and Park Road Northwest. Safeway Inc. has a store under construction at Fifth and K streets Northwest. Some Columbia Heights residents are aggressively campaigning to get Whole Foods Market to open a store at 14th Street Northwest in the DCUSA retail complex. The chain opened a store on P Street Northwest in 2000.

“It’s a cornerstone,” Mr. Miller said about neighborhood retail in the West End. “What do you do on Saturday and Sunday? You run errands and go to the grocery store. With everybody driving to a grocery store out of the neighborhood, it’s hard to run into your neighbors.”

In other news …

• Raving Brands, an Atlanta franchise restaurant company, plans to open 65 restaurants in the Washington area over the next three years.

The restaurants will be under the names Moe’s Southwest Grill, Doc Green’s Gourmet Salads and Shane’s Rib Shack, all of which have locations throughout the South.

Moe’s, a taco and burrito chain, has five Washington-area locations. Doc Green’s is a salad, soup and sandwich restaurant, and Shane’s is a barbecue chain. The first Shane’s sites are planned for Laurel and Alexandria.

“The D.C. metro area has one of the best demographics in the country,” said Chris Allen, Raving Brands’ real estate director. “You’ve really seen a lot of growth, and traditionally D.C. is underserved with retail. There’s a lot of catch-up to do.”

cMayorga Coffee, a Rockville coffee roaster with five locations in the Mid-Atlantic, has landed a deal to brew its coffee at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports, in October and March, respectively. It has locations at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall and Pittsburgh International airports.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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